With avian flu on the rise again, will egg prices follow?

With avian influenza cases rising again, with egg prices also rise? (U of A System Division of Agriculture file photo)

Avian influenza was blamed for higher egg prices in 2023, which peaked at $4.82 per dozen in January.

 As avian influenza cases rise, will consumers be paying higher prices again for eggs?

“It’s too soon to tell,” said Jada Thompson, agricultural economist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Avian influenza was blamed for higher egg prices in 2023, which peaked at $4.82 per dozen in January, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. By September 2023, as the supply chain recovered, egg prices dipped to $2.07 per dozen. However, prices rose again, hitting $2.99 in March 2024.

In early April, Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., the nation’s largest producer of fresh eggs, said it had to destroy more than a million laying hens and more than 337,000 pullets after highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected at its facility in Parmer County, Texas. A pullet is a hen that has not begun to lay eggs.

“I don’t think this one outbreak is enough to make us see the high fluctuations we have seen,” Thompson said.

She said there are two reasons for this, “one, we haven’t had the consistent barrage against the egg industry in the same way, which meant that one large complex like this event may cause some regional price changes but won’t compound the overall price situation.

“Two, the replenishment stocks aren’t as impacted as before,” Thompson said. “Before, we had outbreaks on egg premises and on pullet and parent stock premises, meaning the birds that would replace the ones that got sick were also in short supply. That isn’t the same shortage as before, so the impact won’t take as long to recover — hopefully.”

Egg producers have also taken actions to prevent a repeat of 2023.

“Egg prices are based on current supply,” Thompson said. “I believe the market has tried to increase stocks of birds and likely are trying to compensate for potential losses.

“While you can’t predict a million-bird complex becoming infected, more replenishment stocks and a general wariness leads to substantial preparations and that is helpful for business continuity and market consistency,” she said.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on X and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu. Follow on X at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on X at @AgInArk.